A happily married real estate agent contemplates having an affair.
Tessa, at 37, has a lovely life in Montreal: three sons, an “irresistible” and creative husband, and a financially comfortable life. When one of Tessa’s female clients needs to sell a home due to an impending divorce, Tessa doesn’t realize that the home belongs to her first great love, Francis—until he calls and asks her to meet him for a drink. Immediately, Tessa knows she will meet him, and she expects to return to the state of desire that has simmered underneath her contented life ever since the end of their relationship more than 15 years earlier. The novel unspools forward and backward in time as Tessa narrates her childhood, adolescence, and relationship with Francis in the past and inches forward through the quotidian life of mothering and domesticity as she waits for her meeting with Francis. Britt (Louis Undercover, 2017, etc.) is covering familiar ground, but luckily, the novel is smarter than the average exploration of middle-class ennui. For one thing, Tessa is a protagonist who defies expectations; she’s failed at the creative career she wanted, but she doesn’t appear to resent it. She’s an excellent mother but views the complex reality of parenting with clarity. She’s self-aware about the dark streak she’s carried her whole life—“I was nothing but love and torment,” she says—but this darkness hasn’t threatened to poison her relationships...until now. While the reader is likely rooting for Tessa to keep her family intact, Britt also reminds us, in spare and trenchant prose: “To each her own end of the world.”
There is something essentially inexplicable about a woman who wants to implode a largely faultless life, but Britt doesn’t shy away from exploring this impulse anyway, with memorably lovely results.